Kevin Page was in full grandad mode at the Festival of Lights in New Plymouth. Photo / Michael Cunningham
They say the only constant thing in life is change.
This is particularly so in the case of our family, where No. 2 Son, his wife and two daughters – one aged six-going-on-16 and
the other aged three – are very shortly to depart for new adventures and life in Australia.
Naturally, for purely selfish parent and grandparent reasons, we will be very sorry to see them go. Having said that, we are equally excited to see what the future holds for them as they shift to a small town three hours north of Melbourne.
We intend to visit as much as semi-retirement and the weekly financial proceeds accumulated from this column allow. I may even take my golf clubs.
This weekend just gone, however, saw me head down for one last whistle-stop visit before No. 2 Son puts the joeys in the pouch and hops off. So to speak.
Unfortunately, a shoulder injury has seen Mrs P strapped up and in a sling for the last week – sorry, Mr Foster, she won’t be available for the All Blacks pre-season camp – so this meant she couldn’t accompany me on my trip to New Plymouth.
I knew this would mean I would need to ‘shoulder’ a lot of the grandparenting burden alone. Kind of ironic when you think about it, seeing as the reason I was there on my own was her injury to that particular joint.
By dusk last Friday I’m there, and the little ones are delighted to see Grandad, practically bowling me over with hugs in the driveway as I get out of the car.
As I expected, their mum is super-organised and has laid out a schedule of events for me to participate in so as to maximise my time in the ‘naki.
First up, it’s a bit of tea before we head to the Festival of Lights they have down there. Well worth it if you haven’t been before.
What would also have been worth it was the food my daughter-in-law put on before we went.
Sadly, for you, this culinary delight was not available to the general public, but if I say she is a trained chef who has worked in kitchens all over the world and is adept at whipping up all manner of tasty delicacies, I’m sure you’ll get an idea of what I mean.
So, with bellies extended and the cherubs itching to get to the festival, off we set.
Up and down various tracks and trails, each with its own special lighting installation, we traipsed – giving my ageing knees and hips a decent workout – until we came to a lake. Rowboats were available for hire and, naturally, this being my last bit of time with them all, I felt the need to open the wallet.
Twenty minutes later, I’m feeling it in my shoulders as I’m pulling hard to propel two adults, two children and myself across the water to look at an island of bright pink flamingos, all lit up in the darkness.
Needless to say, after all that exercise, the stroll back to the car was a bit of a challenge – helped somewhat by the 9.30pm icecream we simply had to have to finish the day off in style.
The next morning, still drowsy from the exertion of the long drive and the rowing and walking of the night before, I’m awakened at 6am by two little girls bouncing on the blow-up bed in the lounge excitedly informing me that we’re going to the local swimming pool.
The next couple of hours are a bit of a blur, to be honest.
I think I had coffee, but whether I took my blood pressure medication and the handful of anti-inflammatories I needed, I can’t remember. I mean, one minute I was trying to open my eyes and get my aching muscles to move, and the next I was standing on the end of a four-metre-high diving board with a six-year-old in the water beneath me yelling: “C’mon Grandad! Juuump!!!!!!!!!!”
‘How on earth did I get here?’ I remember thinking as the springs on the board shuddered, making my knees weak.
Naturally, not wishing to embarrass my granddaughter in front of a gaggle of fellow six-year-olds by wimping out – I’ve never been a big fan of such activities – I stepped off.
After what seemed like an eternity but was most likely only a millisecond, I hit the water and went down, down, down. And all the water that had previously been minding its own business in the pool went up, up up… up my nose, that is. Or, more precisely, up my nose, over the hill at the back and down into my lungs.
The upshot of this rather unsavoury experience was that I finally emerged from the depths of the diving pool coughing and spluttering and with a fair deal of snot coming out of my nose.
Thankfully, this delighted Miss Six, her mates, my son and his wife, all of whom were practically wetting themselves with laughter on the edge of the pool, and Miss Three, who clapped her hands together and shouted: “Again, Grandad!!!!!!!!!”
Thinking I would have a good case if I argued I was not mentally competent to have signed up for the high board, such was my exhaustion at the time, I politely declined further activity in that regard and ambled off to the inside pool, where Miss Three delighted in throwing herself off the edge of the learner pool into my arms for an hour or so.
Occasionally she hit the water first, as I had hoped, but nine times out of 10 it was like a punch to the chest as she shrieked with delight and threw herself my way.
Eventually, the fun had to come to an end, and, feeling like a boxer who’d gone 10 rounds with Muhammad Ali, we had to leave, heading off to a local café where Grandad was allowed one chip each from their respective burgers and fries. Still, they were allowed as many of his nachos as they wanted.
Apparently, it’s the law.
Luckily, the pub meal was ample, and it was a satisfied (again) and weary (again) Grandad who settled down later that afternoon with a cherub cuddled in on either side to watch a film featuring an elephant who became a great singer and a koala bear who was her manager.
By all accounts, I drifted off pretty quickly and was snoring within 20 minutes of the film starting.
No. 2 Son woke me an hour after it finished, and after we’d had another sumptuous tea, it was hugs all ‘round for one final time before I hopped back into the car for the long drive home.
Obviously, they will be missed, all of them. But Mrs P and I know it’s a good move for them with lots of great opportunities, particularly in the field our son is in.
We don’t know how long it will be until we see them again. With a bit of luck, maybe not too long.
I’m just hoping my aching body will have recovered from Grandad Duty by then.